Be a Change - social entrepreneurship factory

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Be a Change - social entrepreneurship factory

Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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Be a Change is a program that helps people start new social ventures through expert-assisted venture idea generation and development and a social business concept competition.

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If Field of Work is “other” please define in 1-2 words below

social entrepreneurship development

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What is the primary problem your venture is trying to address and how are you addressing it (or planning to address it)?

There is little socially entrepreneurial action in countries where governments are strong and there are no major challenges such as wars or natural disasters. (Elkington, J., Hartigan, P., 2008. The Power of Unreasonable People, p. 209-211) Still, even these countries have many problems to solve and they have a lot of unleashed potential to contribute to solving problems in other parts of the world. Be a Change addresses this problem through helping people start social ventures in this kind of countries.

Project Description

Be a Change is a program that helps people start new social ventures through expert-assisted venture idea generation and development and a social business concept competition.

Unique and different

The support that new social entrepreneurs get through Be a Change makes it unique:

Concepts for the new social ventures are developed through virtual collaboration of 2 months and an expo of 2 days, together with 140 chosen individuals and experts on different issues related to social entrepreneurship, such as funding, marketing, writing a business plan, evaluating social and environmental impact and defining value-base.

Those participants, who want to start their own social ventures, have opportunity to take part in a competition, where 1-3 winners will be awarded. These awards enable the winner(s) to get their social venture(s) started with very holistic support, including e.g. money, coaching and mentoring, incubation services, bookkeeping and auditing, law consulting and insurance. All competition participants can submit their business idea before the expo so that the jury can read them beforehand and give feedback and that their potential customers and partners can be invited to the expo.

Participants have also opportunity to participate organizing Be a Change and thus develop competencies and networks they need as social entrepreneurs. Thus even young, disabled or homeless people or immigrants etc. can be enabled to start their own social venture.

Project plan

October 2008
- Organizing Be a Change 2008 expo 30.10.-1.11.

November 2008 - January 2009
- Planning, deciding time and venue and finding main partner for Be a Change 2009 program
- Promoting Be a Change 2009 team opportunities

February 2009
- Selecting Be a Change 2009 team

March 2009
- Planning and executing a campaign promoting social entrepreneurship as a career
- Fundraising, finding partners and making marketing materials for Be a Change 2009 program


A design company called Idean has helped us to design the image of the project and is now helping us to plan and facilitate the process of creating social innovations that we are going to run in Be a Change expo. We created the partnership by contacting them directly with a proposal.

An NGO called EBBF (European Bahai Business Forum) has helped us to design the communication of the project and market it and is going to give training about and evaluate the value base of the business concepts submitted in the competition. We created the partnership through AIESEC. AIESEC is the lead organizer of Be a Change and is already partnering with EBBF.

A social venture called Remake EkoDesign has helped us with planning the content of the expo and criteria of the competition and is going to evaluate personal motivations of the competition participants. We created the partnership through AIESEC because one of the co-founders of Remake is a member of EBBF.


Be a Change 2008 is starting 1-3 new social ventures that are supported so that they become successful in making their impact.


To date we have helped
- two people to find a venture idea
- two social entrepreneurs to connect through our networking event and start a partnership

We will also help
- people who want to become social entrepreneurs to finalize and realize their venture ideas
- companies, NGOs, GOs and SEs to network

How do you engage and impact the community?

We engage and impact the community indirectly through the new social ventures that start through Be a Change. They will all engage and impact the community in their own ways that they choose themselves.

We impact and engage the community also directly through
- social entrepreneurship encouragement
- connecting NGOs, GOs, companies and social ventures
- youth development
(- employment of people who have difficulties with getting a job)

We encourage social entrepreneurship by communicating the program through media and PR activities in order to raise awareness about social entrepreneurship and what it takes to start a social venture. Thus we aim to encourage people to consider social entrepreneurship as a career.

We connect NGOs, GOs, companies and social ventures through bringing people from all these sectors together, first virtually in the virtual collaboration and then physically in the expo. When negotiating about partnerships we are also communicating the societal trend of emerging social entrepreneurship and raising awareness of the importance of developing partnerships with social enterprises.

We develop youth through organizing Be a Change 2008 with a team of young volunteers. We are organizing their work so that they can do things they are passionate about and develop the things they want to develop in themselves.

Next year we are going to increase youth development impact by organizing Be a Change 2009 with an international team of AIESEC members who come to work together in Helsinki for two months. After Be a Change 2009, we will also provide international internship opportunities for AIESEC members so that they work for the partner companies who contribute to the prize of Be a Change competition. Thus they also develop their cultural understanding and adaptability.

Possibly in the future, we will start employing disadvantaged, homeless and long-term unemployed people and immigrants in order to offer jobs for those who have had hard to get them. The purpose is to organize their work so that it is educational at the same time, in order to make it easier for them to get employed or start their own business in the future.

How do you measure this impact?

The new social ventures, that start through Be a Change, measure their own impact and we measure our indirect impact by compiling their measurements. In Be a Change expo, the venturers get education about how to measure social and environmental impacts and motivation and plans to measure impact are also part of evaluation criteria in the competition. We are also exploring the possibility of including measurement services in the prize.

We measure the amount of media coverage we receive and the approximate number of people we reach with it, as that implies how much we raise public awareness for social entrepreneurship.

One year after the expo, we are sending a questionnaire to all participants to find out what they have ended up doing with social entrepreneurship and what their plans are. Thus we will find out how many of them have been inspired enough to start their own social venture or go to work to somebody else's and how many are planning to do so.

One year after the expo, we are also sending a questionnaire to all the companies and organizations that were present to find out what kind of partnerships they have started because of the expo and what their results have been.

We are measuring youth development through individual interviews with all team members after the project to find out what they have learned.

We are also measuring the number of jobs we create; how big proportion of those are for young, disadvantaged, homeless or long-term unemployed people or immigrants and how many of these people get another job after this.


People misunderstand social entrepreneurship very easily. Some people understand that it means hiring disabled or long-term unemployed people. Some people understand that it is enough to create jobs and wealth. It is very challenging to communicate the purpose of Be a Change because there's no common understanding about social entrepreneurship to build on.

In order to get successful social ventures as an outcome, a lot more ventures need to be started, because majority of them is likely to fail. It is going to be hard to find a sufficient amount of people who are willing to start a social venture. Especially in countries without much socially entrepreneurial activity, it is a big risk to be a pioneer in the field.

It is hard to attract investors to the expo, because most of them have some specific field they are focusing on and Be a Change is open for social innovations in any field. It would be very valuable for new entrepreneurs to network with investors.

When spreading Be a Change to different countries, it can be a challenge to find the best adjustment to new local realities.

Financing source
(or how do you expect your initiative will be financed)

Organizing is financed with expo delegate fees. Award of the competition is financed with sponsorships. Salaries are financed first with grants, later (from 2010 or 11 on) with fees from companies participating the expo as the concept becomes more known and more companies can be attracted with higher prices.

Aside from financial sustainability, how do you plan to grow and sustain your project?

Project is grown and through AIESEC network, which is present in 100 countries at the moment. AIESEC has an international internship program for students, which can be used to train organizers and to copy the concept abroad. Project is sustained through cooperation with universities, polytechnics and entrepreneurship advisory services, to include more social entrepreneurship encouragement in their curriculum. This is how it happens:

Be a Change 2009 is organized again in Helsinki and with better support for the business(es) started through packaging the support in a holistic social entrepreneurship development program. The program begins with identifying personal development needs and deciding what opportunities to take: responsibility in organizing team to develop specific skills; traineeship abroad in a development project to develop world understanding and benchmark SE abroad; participating Be a Change 2009 and/or competition. There will also be a promotion campaign for social entrepreneurship as a career proceeding it to arouse more interest to the program.

If this works, Be a Change 2009 and social entrepreneurship promotion campaign are organized in the same way in 2-4 Finnish cities with a common virtual collaboration for participants in all these cities. Expos are organized by AIESEC local committees in these cities. They also organize their own campaigns and compile their own prizes with the AIESEC members from abroad who also find the interns from their home countries after the expo.

Be a Change 2010 is organized in the same way in 2-4 Scandinavian countries. Virtual collaboration is still common for everybody and expos and campaigns are organized by AIESEC local committees in participating cities.

After 2010, Be a Change spreads through AIESEC network to other countries where things are going well and governments are strong, because those are countries with traditionally little socially entrepreneurial action. Businesses started through Be a Change will concentrate on solving problems in other parts of the world and those untackled problems that the well-off nations still have themselves

Finance details

Money raised: none
In-kind donations: venue for the expo, printed marketing materials, consulting services as part of the prize
Number of people on our team: 12
Team members' roles: Team leader (1), virtual platform coordinator (1), content coordinator (1), financial coordinator (1), marketing and communication team (4), sales team (4)
Number of partners: 8

Creative funding

We have been asking a lot of in-kind donations, e.g. an empty factory hall for venue and printing of marketing materials in exchange for visibility. Next year we are also going to raise funding from company networks and organizations, e.g. raising 10 000€ from an organization with 20 member companies so that each one sponsors with 500€.

Other non finance needs

Every year we need
- facilities for the expo
- marketing materials and channels
- online platform for virtual collaboration
- skilled workforce for organizing
- famous and knowledgeable experts for evaluating competition participants and their business ideas and for speaking and giving advice at the expo
- services for the prize, such as coaching and mentoring, incubation services, bookkeeping and auditing, law consulting and insurance

The Story

I had been a member of AIESEC for 2,5 years and I wanted to do something meaningful with the organization now that I had learned to use it. I was planning to use AIESEC's exchange program to bring students from different countries to work with CSR in Finnish companies so that they could both learn from each other.

Spring 2008 I went to a national seminar of AIESEC in Finland. I was going to present my project idea there. But before me it was the turn of an AIESEC alumnus called Tomi Astikainen, who told about his idea of a project which would not only involve learning about sustainable business but also creating new socially relevant businesses. He had just started his company called Feelovation that would start advancing social entrepreneurship in Finland and this shared project with AIESEC would be one of the first steps. I immediately forsake my previous plans and went to plan with Tomi a project that later became Be a Change.


In 06-07 as Vice President of Out-going Exchange for AIESEC TKK I received an award for activity from the Member Committee of AIESEC in Finland.

In August 2007 I received an Active Learner Award at a Scandinavian AIESEC conference.

Broader context

Be a Change program enables both young people and adults to shape the social change movement through enabling them to get and develop venture ideas and directly helping them to start new social ventures. Even those who don't want to start their own ventures can shape it through contributing to the development of others' ventures. This is the primary way how Be a Change contributes to youth and social change movement. It contributes also in two secondary ways:

Current social change movement engages wider and wider proportion of the society. Social change used to be the business of citizen sector. But as world challenges grow and we set ambitious goals for human well-being, cooperation of different sectors becomes more and more important. Be a Change helps companies, NGOs, GOs and entrepreneurial individuals to get on board on the social change movement. Especially Be a Change expo is a powerful tool for this, because it brings representatives of different sectors together with the common aim of starting successful social ventures. This aim forces them to network and learn from each other's way of looking at world problems, inventing solutions for them and commercializing these solutions.

Trend in the youth movement seems to be that young people are more and more demanding with their engagements. There are now so many opportunities to do good, that young changemakers can choose those that have the biggest impact and give them the most relevant and enjoyable experiences. Be a Change team is an ideal opportunity for young people who want to see positive change resulting from their activity, develop themselves, work with things they are passionate about, enjoy it and expand their network, because it is organized in cooperation with so many professional people and with the AIESEC culture of ambitious work with a lot of fun to balance it.


I see myself working with it part-time at least in 2009, potentially until I graduate from university in 2012. Most likely my role would change during that time to a more consulting one and I might even have a break some year. After graduation I see myself considering working full-time for Be a Change. I would work maximum 10 years (most likely less) and then leave this project for others to continue and look for the next thing for myself.

What is your age?


How did you hear about this competition?

From my friend who has been working a lot with social entrepreneurship, e.g. at Ashoka.